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Secret Service Creating Sarcasm Detection Tool For Monitoring Social Media Networks

(CBS SF) -- If you think you have a hard time detecting sarcasm online, try being a U.S.  Secret Service agent.

The agency, responsible for protecting government leaders, the nation's financial infrastructure and national security via electronic threats, is looking to invest in software that can help them differentiate humor from hazard.

According to a Nextgov report, the Secret Service said it's looking for a vendor to build them software that can collect information from public social media posts ranging from "emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages."

The Secret Service wants their social media analytics tool to be able to synthesize large sets of data, identify patterns and visually present complex data with heat maps.

Specifically, they're looking for software capabilities that include "sentiment analysis," "influencer identification," and "ability to detect sarcasm."

The latter could prevent future "misunderstandings" between social media users who post flagrant comments in a joking manner and the federal agents who are quick to label them as dangerous subjects.

In one case from 2012, Irish citizen Leigh Van Bryan tweeted to a friend that he was free for a quick gossip before he goes "destroy America." The 26-year-old was excitedly referring to his upcoming U.S. trip, but the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security considered otherwise and flagged him as a national threat. After he landed in Los Angeles, he was promptly arrested and kept under armed guard in a cell with Mexican drug dealers for 12 hours.

"There is a reason why they want to do this," Peter Eckersley, technology projects director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation told The Age. "There have been regular, tragically documented instances where a human being whose crime is being too funny winds up with a pile of agents pointing guns at them and arresting them because they made a joke."

The Secret Service posted the work order on Monday and is accepting proposals until June 9.

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